After spending a day filming with Russian NTV presenter Evgeny Ksenzenko on 4th September 2008 we took a quick roll call of the snails before heading home. Counting only seven of the eight agents we checked them off by their ID number. Agent 011 aka Walter was nowhere to be found. Recently the snails had started burying themselves in a spell of feverish egg laying. A more exhaustive search of the substrate reveal two more pockets of eggs (bringing the total egg count to approximately 360) but no Walter. Both Vicky and our four year old son Lorne joined me crawling around the office looking for any sign of snail or slime.
Earlier, during the interview, the cameraman, Boris Khalfin, had been standing with his back leaning against the open tank; could Walter have slithered from tank to shoulder. Was he defecting? Had the interview been a cover for a snail jacking? Was Walter’s mangled body pressed between the treads of a Russian boot? Should we phone them? What would we say? We drove home inventing more improbable scenarios and coming to terms with the loss of one of our agents. Walter had been carrying an email when he disappeared and we had not planned for this eventuality. Should we reassign the email to the next available snail or should we also allow it to mysteriously disappear.
Later that evening a routine check of the snail stats online revealed that Walter was now available. He had posted his message. How could this be? we have yet to discover but over the weekend his performance has rocketed. Evgeny Ksenzenko brought a cucumber for the snails; a rare treat. Is Walter in orbit, rippling around the outside of the tank, desperately trying to get back in for his share of the cucumber. This would allow him to pass by the readers, possibly getting a small electrical buzz as he slithers over the exposed circuitry. When we return to our office this week will we find him frizzled onto the back of one of the readers or peering wistfully through the glass at what remains of the cucumber?